Dear Netcorians: My Annual Day Speech

Published April 19-21, 2022

Netcore celebrated its Annual Day on April 7, 2022, delayed because of Covid. It was a special occasion, in our 25th year. It was a memorable evening of awards and performances. We were meeting in person after a gap of two years. I gave a short speech. Here is a rough transcript.

Our Journey

Dear Netcorians,

Netcore began 25 years ago in a 300 square feet office in Fort in South Mumbai with a team of 5 people as a spin-off from IndiaWorld. It was a forced separation because I was having trouble explaining to IndiaWorld investors what a Linux-based mail server provisioning business had in common with a portals business. We moved to Peninsula Chambers in Lower Parel a few years later after IndiaWorld was acquired by Sify.

The early years saw very slow growth; we were stuck at Rs 1 crore revenue for many years. During the first decade of Netcore, I tried multiple ideas: BlogStreet (blog search engine), an RSS-IMAP Aggregator (for consuming feeds), Pragatee (an all-in-one server for small businesses), Emergic Freedom (thin client, thick server to make computing affordable), MyToday SMS (microcontent subscriptions), (mobile web portal). All failed and cost us money.

2007 saw an upward shift in our fortunes. The previous 15 years have taken Netcore’s revenues to Rs 660 crore ($88 million) in FY 22. What were the key decisions that made Netcore?

I replaced myself as CEO. Netcore has been led by three professional CEOs who have been the agents of transformation, starting with Abhijit in 2007-11, Girish in 2011-14 and Kalpit 2015 onwards.

Bhavana (my wife) gave me an ultimatum when she saw Netcore losing money in 2008: turn it around or shut down. We made the business profitable in a few months thereafter and have had 15 years of profitable growth since then.

We ended our B2C experiments in the quest for profitability, and focused only on enterprise solutions, starting with SMS and then email.

We added martech in 2015. We expanded to other emerging markets. The early years were difficult but we never gave up, and eventually succeeded.

We also expanded to the US in 2018 and Europe in 2021. We pivoted to becoming a SaaS company in 2019.

Our vision of a full-stack martech platform was enhanced with the acquisitions of Boxx and Hansel in 2019 and 2020, respectively.

In 2022, we made our biggest investment of $100 million in Unbxd, funded entirely after internal accruals.

Many of these were shots in the dark when taken, bullets that later became cannonballs. Taken together, these decisions have brought Netcore close to $100 million in ARR. I wrote about Netcore’s journey recently.

Our Spirit

Profitable growth. Infinite mindset (long-term focus). Extreme employee centricity (with 25% stock options). These are core beliefs I have written about in the past. Besides these, a number of things make us stand apart.

We have taken the road not taken to becoming a proficorn.

We believe in the genius of the AND rather than the tyranny of the OR. Profits AND Growth. India AND the World. Emerging Markets AND Developed Markets. Family AND Professional. CPaaS AND Martech. Product AND Progency. Humans AND Machines. Netcore AND Unbxd.

We are beating competitors who have been in business for 10+ years and still cannot show profits.

We are not afraid to fail. We try out things, we experiment. Pepipost (an SMB email API service) and Scoop (a conversational analytics platform) have been two such efforts.

We don’t give up on things we believe in even if success takes time. For example, our international expansion and our CE (customer engagement) platform.

We are always open to learning. We learnt the SaaS way: ABM, SDR, inbound.

We are willing to walk alone on a different path. We bootstrapped our way through the years while others raised and burnt capital. When the pandemic began and the future was uncertain, many funded companies fired employees; Netcore did not fire and did not cut salaries.

We trust people irrespective of age or background.

We are willing to accept our mistakes and say sorry. Kalpit and I did just that when we called a leading brand’s CEO to apologise for an error from our side.

We never compromise on integrity. Once when a global tech company overpaid us by almost a million dollars (and they did not even realise it), we returned the amount in full.

We will go the extra mile for our customers and have maintained relationships through the years.

We are survivors. We are challengers. We are winners. We are Netcore.

Our Future

We are on the verge of a historic move – becoming a public company. When we accept money from others, our responsibilities will increase. We will have a great obligation to deliver value and returns for big and small investors.

We also want to ensure wealth creation for as many of you as possible.

We may not always match the salary offers that you get from other companies. But if you trust us, if you have stock (and everyone in Netcore can get ESOP), you will make more money over the next few years than what you will make with a salary hike.

Our expectation is you put work ahead of life; I know this is a big ask after the past 2 years of the pandemic. Remember that nothing in life comes easy.

At Netcore, you can live the life of an entrepreneur or CEO in whatever function you do. You get to see what it takes to run and build a business. You can be an entrepreneur within and lead. Working at Netcore is like doing the world’s best startup MBA program! Netcore prepares you for the future, gives you an education no money can buy.

If you want to quit Netcore, don’t quit for money; quit to become an entrepreneur. I will be the first to congratulate you. It is the hardest journey you will undertake in your life.

For 30 years, Bhavana and I have done just that. Life for us has been about our two companies: IndiaWorld first, and then Netcore. 24×7; even while on vacation; always looking one step ahead; a life built around our work; with passion.

We are now ready to climb the next mountains; together with Unbxd; and as a public company.

Netcore’s journey will go on; as an institution that outlasts every one of us. Built to last; an enduring, great company; one that delights customers, innovates, grows.

Many among you are our future leaders; you will be tomorrow’s faces of a public Netcore.

Thank you for being a part of the Netcore team and family.

I ended by asking everyone to join me in singing one of my favourite songs – Ruk jaana nahin tu kahin haar ke (from Imtihaan). I called it the song of an entrepreneur, the anthem of Netcore.